Art/ Collection/ Art Object
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Bodice

Date:
18th century
Culture:
European
Medium:
silk, metal thread
Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Harrison Williams, Lady Mendl, and Mrs. Ector Munn, 1946
Accession Number:
C.I.46.42.6
Not on view
At the court of France, ladies were expected to be in full court dress for all formal occasions. A dame du palais or femme de chambre who waited on the queen was required to wear full court dress at all times. These dresses had enormous hoops that held out a petticoat ornamented with gold metallic decorations and polychrome silk embroideries. A long train was fastened around the waist and trailed behind the wearer. The bodice, stiffened with whalebone, was completely different from those worn with other dresses. The Marquise de la Tour du Pin described one of her bodices in her memoire:
I wore a grand corps, a specially made bodice, without shoulders, laced in the back, but so narrow that the lacing, about four inches wide at the bottom, showed a chemise of the finest batiste through which one could easily have noticed an insufficiently white skin. The chemise had sleeves that were only three inches high, without a shoulder, to leave the neckline bare. The top of the arm was covered with three or four rows of lace, which fell to the elbow. The chest was entirely exposed.
This court bodice is extremely rare, for there are no known examples surviving in France. Full court dresses in cloth of silver cut along the lines of the French court dress are preserved in the Kremlin Museum, Moscow, and in the Royal Armory, Stockholm.
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